A Federal judge for the Western District of New York issued his ruling on NYSRPA v. Cuomo – a challenge brought against the NYSAFE Act – on New Year's Eve 2013, providing the first big legal review of gun control and safety laws enacted since the Sandy Hook shooting.
In his ruling, Judge William Skretny (nominated to the bench by GHW Bush in 1990) upheld the vast majority of the law, striking down four provisions. Notably, the judge upheld background check provisions, bans on assault style weapons (and weapons with assault rifle features), in-person only ammunition sales, and a 10 round magazine limit.
The four provisions struck down were:
- • Limiting the number of loaded rounds to 7 (even if the magazine could hold 10). The judge found this additional restriction arbitrary and without any rational purpose.
- • An unintelligible drafting of one paragraph dealing with large capacity magazines of a certain manufacture date. The main portion of the section remains intact, but a portion of the section was invalidated because the judge ruled there was no functional way to read it.
- • A misuse of the word "break" instead of "brake" in limiting muzzle brakes. The provision banning muzzle brakes was struck because of the repeated misuse of "break" instead.
- • An attempt to ban semi-automatic versions of automatic weapons. The judge ruled in this case (sadly, IMHO), that simply specifying "semi-automatic versions of automatic weapons" was too vague for the ordinary citizen, who might not know that a rifle or pistol was based on an automatic version. This is the major loss of the case, IMHO, because our Federal assault rifle ban was riddled with holes based on this or that gun that wasn't explicitly listed, but was functionally equivalent to a banned rifle.
On the other hand, the judge explicitly ruled in favor of the following that might be of interest to Coloradoans:
- • "Readily adapted or converted." The judge ruled that this terminology had been accepted since the 1994 Federal assault rifle ban and that it had been ruled acceptable in several cases previously.
- • Shotgun tube magazine limits. Likewise, the judge ruled that despite the variability of shotgun shell lengths, there was a relative standard that could be applied that would make sense in applying these limits.
- • Large capacity magazine limits. The judge ruled that, even considering the "in standard use" standard of the Second Amendment, that there was an adequate and well-demonstrated public safety need that outweighed the Constitutional right (similar to limits on yelling "fire!" in a theater), and that said safety need met the requirements of Heller.
Of course, this is a regional district court in a different federal circuit, but you can expect that the legal reasoning used in this decision will be given substantial weight in any challenges brought against Colorado's new gun laws.
The full court decision can be read via Google Docs thanks to the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which largely lost its case